A decorated stone slab on the floor of Structure Thirty-Two
Dig Diary – Day Thirty
Friday, August 6, 2021
It’s been a quiet sort of day at The Ness, with the only real noise and disturbance coming from a boisterous wind which has whistled and nagged across the site and, as the day draws to a close, seems only to be increasing in volume.
The archaeology, though, has been just fine.
In Structure Thirty-Two Ceiridwen uncovered a large stone, which her keen eyes spotted had incised lines. A little cleaning resolved these marks into very definite chevrons, making another addition to the many hundreds of decorated stones already discovered at the site.
Also in Trench J, and high up on the northern side of the Structure Thirty-Two wall, Colin uncovered some very unpromising pieces of pottery which he sent to the finds hut in a tray.
These lumps of material have been yet another lesson for us in the folly of looking down our noses at “substandard’ material”. In this case a delicate prodding and poking of the midden surrounding the pot revealed three very nice little decorated sherds.
This has happened time and again at the Ness, with the only problem being the time consuming nature of disinterring pot from large and often rock-hard chunks of midden.
We live and learn!
In order to take a sample from Structure Twenty – the building beneath Ten – she has to manoeuvre one of her Kubiena tins (a small, open-ended rectangular tin) down into the excavation so that she can press it into the surface at the bottom and thus gather material for analysis.
Unfortunately the bottom of the sondage is largely populated by stone, although she seems to have managed to secure enough of the non-stone components.
The process of micromorphological processing is fascinating. The material gathered as a block in the tin is tightly wrapped with cling film and tape and is then taken to a laboratory where it is air-dried.
When dry the block is impregnated with a polyester-resin mix, baked in an oven and then, when cooled, is cut into thin slices.
These are then mounted on glass slides and, after further processing, the very thin sliced sections are ready to be examined by Jo under a petrological microscope.
She can then analyse the contents, depositional history and a host of other elements of these soil samples gathered with such difficulty within and around the Ness structures.
Jem has found another post-hole within Structure Ten.
She spotted signs of the packing stones which secure posts into position and has now defined the cut made for the post-hole. This may be part of a double post-hole or may simply illustrate how one post replaced another.
Lisa, also in Structure Ten, has reached the bottom of her robber-cut in the north-west corner and has finished unpicking its complex history. She can now record it in detail and next year we will excavate the remaining half.
Spare a thought for Melvyn, as he drew the short-straw for one of the most onerous jobs on site.
For many years we have used stout plastic bags filled with soil to support the more delicate elements of the buildings when all is closed for the winter.
Our original bags are mostly past their best and need to be replaced, but the very sight of them brings strong memories flooding back to those who have worked here in earlier years.
The bags were donated and were very welcome…until we discovered that they had been used to store fish meal.
The smell of this product is indescribable and deeply unpleasant. Thankfully, the bags have lost much of their odour over the years but glimpsing them again causes uneasiness among those who handled them in the past.
The new bags held fertiliser, which is a blessing for Melvyn. But the filling and wheelbarrowing of these news bags around the site is a heavy task. We will let you know if he survives.
In Structure Twelve Jan is now planning and recording, post-excavation, the post-holes which held wood at their bases, and which were finally removed yesterday by Jo. Her recording will trace the use of the post-holes and also the exact sequence of Jo’s excavation and removal.
At the north end of Structure Twelve Sigurd is still working his way thought the highly complex sequence of ashy dumps. But he has now encountered a floor level which we hope will join up with the elements of other primary floors of the building which have appeared nearby.
He has also uncovered a linear stone arrangement which may have been used to separate the northern end of the building from the area around the northern hearth.
Next week is the beginning of our final days on site for this year and Nick has already requested help from the fit and able bodied to help the team secure the black plastic and tyres in order to protect the buildings from the Orkney winter.
The BBC has seized on this idea and has broadcast his appeal. This is very nice of them, but a bit worrying. What if hundreds turn up or, if potential volunteers believe plenty of folk will be coming, and don’t bother?
Please, if you are planning to come (and you will be most welcome) we would like you to email Nick beforehand so that he can manage the task. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll thank you in advance and see you all next week.
Have a good weekend.
The highest bid for Chris’ handmade replica carved stone ball is £300. Thank you to all the bidders.
To bid for this one-of-a-kind creation, email email@example.com. Please put “CSB auction” in the subject line and include your bid in the body of the email.
We will update you on the highest bid received each day until the auction closes on Friday, August 13, the last day of the 2021 season.